Cheese

A Room With a View – Four Days in Florence

When I stepped off the plane in Florence last month, it dawned on me that it had almost been 20 years to the day since I was last in this city.

Why I left it so long, I have no idea. But 20 years later I was back – older, a bit wealthier, better dressed but in no way wiser.

My room with a view

My room with a view

I had originally planned to visit Rome. But then saw that thanks to Qatar Airways joining One World, I could now book a flight straight through to Florence with a short stop in Rome.

I’m relieved to say the city hasn’t changed. It just has more Chinese tourists. I have have more expensive taste in shoes.

While I was pleased to see the 2 star place I stayed in back in 1993 was still operating, my home for this visit was the exquisite St Regis Florence. From the moment I stepped out of the taxi to the time I left four days later, I have never been so well looked after in a hotel.

On the banks of the Arno with a glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio and just that little bit away from the tourist hordes to make it glam, this hotel was everything it promised to be. There was more than one occasion I didn’t want to leave. The beauty of the St Regis brand is that guests get their own butler. Mine did everything from bring me coffee and a paper in the morning to finding cheese shops for me to indulge my obsession.

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For those travel tragics who say that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, I beg to differ. Florence just never changes. Of course I did all the touristy things – gawped at David, cruised the Ponte Vecchio, bought shoes from Ferragamo and got lost in the uffizi.

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But let’s be honest. I was there for the food. And my culinary tour de force actually started at Rome Airport. With an hour to kill and the lounge miles from my gate, I found a bar serving Italian wine and of course, cheese.

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It’s hard to look cool and composed while sitting on a tiny stool and juggling your carryon, handbag and a glass of wine. But once the food arrived, it was on.

Culinary highlights from the trip are many and varied. I ate everywhere and everything. From Michelin Star cuisine to sitting at a bench munching a boiled beef rolls with workers from the central market.

Seafood pasta at St Regis, my first meal in Florence

Seafood pasta at St Regis, my first meal in Florence

Fruit tart and a coffee overlooking the Uffizi. Turns out this is one of the best known cafes in Florence. I chose it because the waiters were older and the clientele Italian.

Fruit tart and a coffee overlooking the Uffizi. Turns out this is one of the best known cafes in Florence. I chose it because the waiters were older and the clientele Italian.

Martini and olives at the st Regis. This would become my nightly ritual

Martini and olives at the st Regis. This would become my nightly ritual

Boiled beef roll from Nerbone at Mercato Centrale. Served by an avuncular man, this was the only option available Soup Nazi style. It's beef boiled, sliced thinly then dunked in a gravy. It's served with a salsa verde and a red spicy sauce. I ate it at a wooden bench elbow to elbow with old Italian ladies, workers from the market and Japanese tourists at 10am. Bliss!

Boiled beef roll from Nerbone at Mercato Centrale. Served by an avuncular man, this was the only option available Soup Nazi style. It’s beef boiled, sliced thinly then dunked in a gravy. It’s served with a salsa verde and a red spicy sauce. I ate it at a wooden bench elbow to elbow with old Italian ladies, workers from the market and Japanese tourists at 10am. Bliss!

Finally the cheese! Pecorino from a cheese tasting at a small enoteca near the market.

Finally the cheese! Pecorino from a cheese tasting at a small enoteca near the market.

A simple ravioli bolognaise from a tiny restaurant near my hotel.

A simple ravioli bolognaise from a tiny restaurant near my hotel.

Pecorino as it should be eaten

Pecorino as it should be eaten

Michelin star dining at Oro D'aria, which means "hour of air". This stunning restaurant is located across from the old women's prison. It's name refers to the hour of daily exercise for the the women. This dish is "The Hen, the egg and the eggs: the Tuscan Grandmother’s rituals".

Michelin star dining at Oro D’aria, which means “hour of air”. This stunning restaurant is located across from the old women’s prison. It’s name refers to the hour of daily exercise for the the women. This dish is “The Hen, the egg and the eggs: the Tuscan Grandmother’s rituals”.

This is slow cooked beef encased in a wafer thin pasta. I dined alone here but felt so welcome.

This is slow cooked beef encased in a wafer thin pasta. I dined alone here but felt so welcome.

Roast Pork belly

Roast Pork belly

What's a trip to Italy without Gelato? Also, it's Ok at 10am right?

What’s a trip to Italy without Gelato? Also, it’s Ok at 10am right?

The central market was a riot of color and smells. I stayed for hours sampling and chatting

The central market was a riot of color and smells. I stayed for hours sampling and chatting

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Champagne ritual at St Regis Florence. Really I need this in my life

Champagne ritual at St Regis Florence. Really I need this in my life

Florence has always had a special place in my heart. When I was 23 it was the city that truly made me appreciate art and living. I was hesitant to visit as I was worried it had changed and couldn’t live up to the postcard perfect memory I had. I need not have worried. It was everything I had remembered. And more.

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*Life on the Wedge stayed at the St Regis Florence courtesy of the hotel.

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